Brave officers tried to rescue elderly man trapped in house blaze

PC Thomas Scourfield

Sgt Geraint Jenkins

Two South Wales Police officers have been nominated for the national Police Bravery Awards for attempting to save the life of a 92-year-old man who was trapped in a burning building.

PC Thomas Scourfield was off duty and driving back from the gym on 12 April 2019 when he spotted the blaze in Talbot Road, Baglan. He could hear someone screaming inside the property and forced his way in, where he discovered a woman throwing water onto an elderly man who was on the floor and on fire in the yard, near to the back door of the property.

Sergeant Geraint Jenkins, who has 17 years’ service, was on the last day of his secondment to the arson reduction unit, was driving his fire service vehicle and was en route to an enquiry when he noticed thick black smoke billowing from the rear of the same property.

He scaled the walls of the property and discovered it was a shed engulfed in fire. He could see the motionless body of the elderly man on the ground surrounded by flames. Panels from the shed were disintegrating and falling onto the man as he lay on the floor.

Believing the windows would shatter at any moment due to the intense heat, PC Scourfield guided the woman, who had visible burns to her hands and forehead, out of the property.

Family members were trying to spray water onto the elderly man with a garden hose but this was proving ineffective as the water flow was very weak.

Having guided the woman to safety, PC Scourfield, who has three years’ service, went back into the address and into the kitchen to attempt to rescue the man from the other side of the property, but the outside structure had now fallen completely on him and only his hands could be seen.

Sgt Jenkins tried to reach the man but could not do so due to the intensity of the fire. He instructed members of the household to soak towels for him to use to protect himself and then covered himself with saturated towels so he could pull the man from the fire.

He then realised there were possibly barbecue gas canisters in the shed so made a quick assessment and moved the barbecue to a safe enough distance away, before returning to the injured man.

The man had severe and extensive burns to his head, face and body and was not breathing. Despite this, Sgt Jenkins attempted CPR until the arrival of the paramedics and air ambulance doctors. 

Sadly, the man was pronounced dead at the scene.

Both officers have been nominated for the national Police Bravery Awards by South Wales Police Federation.

The chair of the Federation, Steve Treharne, said: “These two officers did everything they could to save this gentleman. They put their own lives on the line to respond to an incident that they both happened upon, with PC Scourfield not even being on duty that day and Sgt Jenkins noticing the blaze as he drove past.

They were incredibly brave and selfless, and displayed a real commitment to serving the public and protecting the people in their communities.”

The annual Police Bravery Awards, sponsored by Police Mutual, honour some of the finest officers in England and Wales who have performed incredible acts of bravery, while on or off duty. 

This year’s ceremony, which was due to be held in London in July, was postponed due to the pandemic, but will be staged on Thursday 15 July 2021. A total of 94 brave officers from forces across England and Wales have been put forward for an award.

John Perks, chief executive officer of Police Mutual, said in a message to all nominees: “Police Mutual is, as always, proud to be supporting the National Police Bravery Awards in its 25thanniversary year.

“Despite having to postpone the original ceremony, your courage was never forgotten and it goes without saying to all of the nominees from 2019 that your commitment to keeping the public safe in the most demanding of circumstances shows unlimited bravery and resilience. 

“This is something each and every one of you should be immensely proud of, as I and all of my colleagues at Police Mutual are on a daily basis when we see how hard your roles can be. We very much look forward to meeting you in July 2021 for the ceremony and our chance to give our thanks in person.”

John Apter, national chair of the Police Federation, said: “We are incredibly proud of all the nominees from across England and Wales. The actions of these courageous officers provide a small snapshot of the amazing work our colleagues carry out day in and day out.

“PS Jenkins and PC Scourfield literally ran through fire to try to save the life of a stranger. Their bravery, professionalism and ability to remain calm under pressure ensured that a tragic situation did not result in further loss of live. They went above and beyond the call of duty in a valiant effort to save a man’s life. Their bravery in the way they handled this incident cannot be over-estimated.

“As a Police Federation, we wanted to make sure these brave officers receive the recognition they deserve in the year their actions were meant to be celebrated. We look forward to seeing them all in person – and revealing regional and national winners - when the time is right in 2021.”